After local property owners retired, they decided that rather than sit in front of a TV and spend an average of 5 hours a week tending lawns and ornamental shrubs, they would do one of Geoff Lawton’s Permaculture PDC courses.
After completing Geoff’s course they were so inspired that they continued and attended Paul Taylors Permaculture Soils Course. At the end of the courses, design in hand, they asked Paul if he would help them implement their design and enhance it where he could. Since Paul just lived down the road and over the hill, he agreed.
With the help of a few young travellers from the Byron Bay backpackers, all hand on deck and the project began. The owners already had a tractor so the labour was a lot easier, eventually the design for the 1 acre ‘zone 1’ project would be 80% food forest and just 20% annual cropping.
The property was all up about 50 acres, about half forest with some grazing areas and lots of lawn this project was designed by the owners for the acre of lawn.
The large areas of lawn only had about 2 inches of topsoil on top of a heavily compacted clay base, so they decided that they would like to best use a mix of topsoil and compost to form raised beds since they preferred sitting on the edge of raised beds to bending over. The Plan was to use cheap local timber to make the beds that would rot away over the next 5-6 years. By this time, they would have made enough compost and collected enough farm waste to build up the topsoil over the entire acre to have a nice fluffy productive area. All the raised beds were the same size so a chicken tractor could be cycled around, and over the next 8 weeks we made 25 tonnes of compost, mostly from on farm resources and mixed this with some of the topsoil from making the dam to fill the raised beds.
Many of the raised beds were designed to be inter-planted with fruit trees, the ornamental shrubs, which were planted in areas where the topsoil was a bit deeper and removed, added to the compost and replaced with fruit trees, berries and banana circles in their subtropical climate.
One of the opportunities they had was a road above a ridge on the property that was about 12 meters higher than their new garden area, so all agreed to take advantage of this opportunity and build a 600,000L dam on the high ridge and fill it by connecting it to a road runoff drain some 500 meters away. This meant that they had the opportunity to build about 500Mts of swale that could not only serve as a water course to fill the dam from the road runoff, but it would also provide an opportunity to reduce erosion and and create an area to immediately populate with fruit trees, so yes, opportunity to fix an erosion gully, plant trees and fill and dam that would irrigate their gardens without the need for pumping.
Just a note: that in the first year this acre produced over 2 tons of veggies, if all of these were sold at local farmers market prices of $5 per kilo, this would equate to about $10,000 for not much more time invested than mowing the lawns and giving a whole lot healthier lifestyle on many levels, not just for being active, eating better food, turning waste into compost, managing road runoff that was causing erosion but as an example that inspired family and friends to grow their own veggie gardens as well.
One of the young travellers decided to document this whole thing, make a movie and put it on you tube as ‘permaculture transformation in 90 days’. Yes, the voice over is essentially terrible since it was just a recording while using a monotone dictation program to write a basic script and a proper voice over was never done.
However, remember if you are going to be interested in Permaculture then one of the permaculture primaries is to ‘turn problems into solutions’ so thanks for the feedback and I’ll make sure that we film it better next time.